Meet Nicholas Laborde, one of the top MBA students at UL Lafayette and CEO/Chief Storyteller at Raconteur Games, his own video game production company.
The 22-year-old’s lifelong passion of video games started when he was just four years old when he first played Super Mario Bros. on his older brother’s Nintendo console. From there, he was hooked, and knew that he wanted to spend his life creating video games.
“I could see that games were this interesting art form where I could tell stories and express myself,” he reflected. “I just wanted to understand how the games I played worked, and then in that process I fell in love with all of the possibilities that could come about from making games.”
After shadowing a video game exec during his senior year of high school and developing a video game prototype, he decided he wanted to major in computer science at UL Lafayette.
“I bought a book about programming the summer before I came to college, I wrote five lines of code, and I didn’t like it,” he recalled. “I changed my major to business management because I reasoned, in that moment, that if I couldn’t actually make games, I could find the people who could and lead them toward completing games.”
Nicholas chose to pursue the MBA degree program at UL Lafayette because he knew he still had more to learn and he knew business was his “true calling.” He wanted to learn as many business skills as possible, which he could to apply in the creative and technical video game industry.
One of the most valuable experiences he had in the MBA program was completing a project in his international business course, where he and his peers had to create a marketing plan for an international company. They acted as consultants for the company, first assessing the market, then creating a strategy and presenting it to the company for them to implement.
“We did that over the course of two months, and it was fascinating. It wasn’t a simulation with theories that might be applicable in the workforce one day,” he says. “It’s a real company, you’re going to help them, and they are relying on you.
“It’s easy to get caught in the idea of, ‘Oh, I’m getting my master’s degree, I know so much,’ but then you’re put in a real-world situation and you realize, ‘Oh, I don’t know everything! There’s still so much to learn.’”
That project also helped him develop a better understanding of working with people who think differently, have different cultures, and work in different time zones, which also applies to working with his Raconteur Games employees in Europe.
In 2013, when Raconteur Games was a fledgling company, Nicholas began working with the AcceleRagin’ program, a partnership between the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration and the Opportunity Machine that enables students to become entrepreneurs by teaching them the intricacies of creating and maintaining a successful business. Nicholas says that AcceleRagin’ has been “a vital part of all my endeavors.”
“Regardless of how you believe the world works, I think it was destiny that I came to UL Lafayette and was a part of AcceleRagin’. I can’t imagine it working out in any other situation, with any other people, in any other context at all,” he says. “I learned so much from the Opportunity Machine’s Zach Barker, who has been a mentor to me, and I’ve learned so much from my professors who have basically acted as consultants and advisors.”
Raconteur Games released its first game, Close Order, in January 2016 on the digital distribution platform Steam. Close Order was a reimagining of classic arcade games and caught the attention of XBox executive Phil Spencer.
The company’s newest game is Evangeline, a short story game about love inspired by Nicholas’s grandfather, who passed away last year. The game is unique in that it’s in a black and white world, but as you’re guided through the game, the world comes to life through color. Throughout the game, the player is performing mundane and routine tasks, but color guides you through the world and draws your attention toward specific items.
“In my grieving, I decided to create Evangeline as a tool for players to connect with loved ones in their lives, so they could appreciate them while they still had them,” Nicholas says.
Nicholas graduated in May 2017. He’s still running Raconteur Games and plans to keep making more games with stories worth telling.
“Evangeline is a grand experiment in using a game not as entertainment, but as a tool with a purpose, and we hope to continue creating experiences such as that,” he says.
And for his fellow entrepreneurs, he has this advice:
“Every expert was once an amateur, right? You have to start somewhere.”